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Billington steps in

by Joe Gordon

Sunday, November 21, 1999

The narrow view of Craig Billington's eighth career shutout and 100th
career victory last night for Washington over the Bruins was the tired
old yarn of a spurned goaltender coming back to haunt his former

For a man like Billington, who cares deeply about the game he has
made his life's work, last night's 3-0 win at the FleetCenter certainly
added closure to a part of his career he spent in a disappointing
setting during a transition period in Bruins history.

Billington, 33, came to the Bruins on April 7, 1995 from Ottawa after
spending the previous eight year in the New Jersey organization. He
lasted until after the 1995-96 season with the B's before moving on
to Florida, Colorado and the Capitals as Olaf Kolzig's backup.

Billington stopped all 28 Bruins shots last night in just his second start
of the season. He stopped the B's cold on five power-play chances.
His former teammate, Ray Bourque, wore himself out with eight shots.

When it was over, Billington recalled his time with the Bruins and put
it into the kind of perspective only a person who sees the glass as
half full could have managed.

``To be quite honest, it was a difficult time in hockey, but I met
some tremendous people and I was treated well by the people here,''
he said. ``I got to play with an Original Six team and meet guys like
Johnny Bucyk and Milt Schmidt and play with the likes of Raymond
Bourque. Those are the memories I take out.

``I got to play in the old Garden before it left. For a kind of historian,
hockey nut like myself that was tremendous. And I got to be here for
the opening of this (FleetCenter). I just try to look at the positive
and move on. This is a great sports town and I enjoyed it.
Unfortunately, the hockey was in turmoil and I was part of the fallout.
That happens in the game. That's life. I remember a lot of the good
stuff and the good people I met.''

Billington knew for about a week that he would start last night. He
watched the Bruins play twice in that span.

``I know my role,'' Billington said. ``It's defined as the guy who
supports Olie and helps him and at the same time provide good
goaltending when they do need me. I also work in the room. I've been
around for 15 years. I'm a guy who's had a lot of different

``I've been in the minors. I've been a top-round pick. I've been put
on waivers. I've been to an All-Star Game. I've been bought out,
picked up on waivers, you name it. I've played on expansion teams
and Stanley Cup contending teams. That's something I just try to
offer the room and offer individual players.''

Billington's best saves were on Joe Thornton, who batted the puck
out of midair at 15:02 of the second period and on a Bourque
one-timer at 9:35 of the final period. He didn't appear nervous.

``I've been nervous since about the age of 4 when I first strapped on
the pads. It hasn't changed. I think you find a way to use nerves.
I've always been nervous before I play,'' Billington said with a smile.
``There's a lot of preparation that goes into it and it's nice to see
that the preparation pays off.''

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